November 29th, 2011 at 10:35 am
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Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt launches Alzheimer’s foundation

by Carol Bursack

Hall of Fame basketball coach Pat Summitt has found a way to put the perfect spin on National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. She, along with her son Tyler, has created a foundation that will provide grants to nonprofit organizations that research Alzheimer’s. In August, Summitt was diagnosed with early onset dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. Summitt has vowed to continue coaching, both because she wants to keep doing what she loves, and because she is passionate about demonstrating to others that life isn’t over when a dementia diagnosis is received.

Summitt stated in a video taped during halftime of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 27, in Knoxville, Tennessee:

“Tyler and I have decided to join this battle, not just for us, but also for the millions of families affected by this disease. I have always told our players, our greatest opportunities are disguised as our greatest obstacles. It is time to treat this obstacle as an opportunity and a stepping stone to a cure.”

Fighting Alzheimer’s: We Back Pat

In honor of Summitt, the Tennessee athletic department is raising money for Alzheimer’s programs chosen by Summitt through sales of “We Back Pat” T-shirts. The department presented two $75,000 checks to Alzheimer’s Tennessee and the UT Medical Center during Sunday’s game.

Summit’s website is a portal for direct donations to her foundation, which will then be channeled to the organizations requiring research funding for Alzheimer’s disease.

Summitt draws attention to early onset Alzheimer’s

While the majority of Alzheimer’s is diagnosed in people of a more advanced age, there is a segment of the population that may receive a dementia diagnosis before the age of 65. This is considered early onset dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. Early onset Alzheimer’s can seem particularly devastating as it can strike people, as it has Summitt, at the peak of their productivity.

Pat Summitt’s decision to fight dementia with her legendary determination undoubtedly will encourage others to do the same. Her high profile presence on the Alzheimer’s front will help raise funds for researchers hoping to find a cure for the disease. Alzheimer’s awareness isn’t enough.

Action is needed. And Pat Summitt is all about action.

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